She Was Not Hidden

12 minute read

This is a VerseNote, a quick meditation inspired by a specific passage of Scripture. See the rest of them.

And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.
—Luke 8:47

Chronologically, a lot has happened since the last time Luke wrote the word “hidden.”

Jesus’s mother and brothers tried to get to Him through the crowd, and He emphasized that His family is open to all who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:19–21).

Jesus and the disciples encountered a storm on their way to the Decapolis. The disciples panicked and woke Jesus up, and He calmed the storm (Luke 8:22–25).

Jesus healed the man possessed by a legion of demons, sending the demons into a herd of pigs that immediately ran off a cliff into the sea. The pigs’ owners were not happy (Luke 8:26–39).

This part isn’t explicit in Luke’s gospel, but Jesus and the disciples returned from the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The next story, the one involving this woman, happens in a Jewish area. The healing of the man and the possessing of the pigs happened in the country of the Gerasenes, who were Gentiles. We know this because they were raising pigs, an unclean animal; no Jew would have been caught over there. Which makes it even weirder that Jesus and His disciples, who were all Jews, visited. But that’s a different story.

So some time has passed, at least enough for two trips across the Sea of Galilee.

But for readers, these stories are basically crushed up against each other, with only thirty verses between Jesus’s analogy of the lamp under the jar and the end of this miracle of the woman with the issue of blood.

As a result, this story provides an immediate (for the reader) “life application” of the principle that the Gospel of Jesus should not and cannot be hidden.

This miracle is itself sandwiched in the middle of an entirely different story, the healing of Jairus’s daughter. Jesus has returned from the Gerasenes, and of course the crowds immediately rush Him1.

In the middle of the crowd, the ruler of the synagogue comes up to Him and asks for His help with his dying daughter. This request is almost, but not quite, as weird as the Roman centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant. (These two stories may even be connected. Jesus spent much of His ministry in Capernaum, where He lived. The healing of the centurion’s servant explicitly happened there (Luke 7:1), and we learn that centurion built the synagogue (Luke 7:5). Jairus, then, could have been an elder in the synagogue the centurion built.)

The request is weird because, while the Jewish people tend to like Jesus, albeit mostly for the spectacle and the healings and not so much for the salvation and eternal life, the Jewish elders tend to dislike Jesus, because His very existence threatens their power, and His teaching explicitly denounces them.

But Jairus is the leader of a synagogue in Capernaum, not a Pharisee of Jerusalem, so perhaps he doesn’t have all the same concerns. In any case, his daughter is dying, and that kind of terror has a way of making other distinctions disappear. Is there anybody you hate so much you wouldn’t ask them for help to heal your child, if they could?

So he comes and begs Jesus for help, and Jesus quickly agrees and returns with him.

And that’s when the story gets weird. Er.

On the way to Jairus’s house, a woman touches Him. And not just any woman—there are lots of people touching Him, because He’s in the middle of a giant crowd and ancient villages aren’t exactly known for their sprawling boulevards—but a woman almost as despised as those pig-herders on the other side of the sea.

She has a bleeding problem. None of the gospels makes clear exactly what was wrong with her, although Luke mentions that she’s spent all her money on physicians, none of whom could help. Either way, her bleeding makes her ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:25–31). And not just her, but every bed she lies in, every chair or mat or cushion she sits on, and anybody else who touched her or any of these things she touched, became unclean.

She’s contagious.

In the Old Testament, under the law, ritual purity was a big deal. You can’t go into the tabernacle if you’re unclean. You can’t sacrifice to God if you’re unclean. So you spend a lot of effort making sure you stay clean, or getting clean if you become impure. As a result, nobody would have come within an arm’s length of this woman, or anything she touched, which would likely include her entire house.

She hasn’t had a hug for twelve years.

And even knowing this, knowing that she was contagious, knowing she was an outcast, knowing that touching Jesus in her condition was not very different from physically assaulting Him, she does it. She reaches out and grabs His robe.

Well, of course she is healed. Jesus is Jesus. And this is the happiest event in this woman’s life! Can you imagine spending twelve years more-or-less without friends? Shunned not just from the tabernacle and from your God and your priests and your elders, but from everybody? And then, to be healed in an instant. To be welcomed back into society in a moment2. She must have felt a kind of joy many of us can only imagine.

But Jesus isn’t about healing you. I mean, He is a healer, a man of infinite compassion, but that’s not enough. Jesus doesn’t call us to be healed, He calls us to be raised to life! And for that she needs more.

So even though He’s on His way to heal a dying girl, the only daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, He stops and turns. He asks an insane question: “Who touched me?” His disciples, assuming that He has in fact lost His mind, remind Him that He’s in the middle of a giant crowd and dozens of people are touching Him and what does He mean, “Who touched Him?” Also, by the way, there’s the matter of the dying girl, who is, might they remind Him, dying.

But Jesus is adamant that this woman know why she was healed. Not because Jesus is magical, or because even His robe has healing powers, but because “your faith has made you well” (Luke 8:48). Jesus leaves no room for superstition or misunderstanding or confusion. Healing is not enough; you must have faith.

This is a good lesson for us today. Following Jesus is the way to life, abundant life, an eternity without tears or sorrow in the presence of our Creator. We pray for healing, and sometimes we are healed, and sometimes we are not. But when we pray in faith for life, then Jesus always, always shows up in power to welcome us into His church, His family, where there is no impurity and nobody will ever be shunned.

But we forget that that’s later. We want the healing and the life and the abundance and the prosperity today, or possibly tomorrow at the latest. Even Amazon can get us stuff in two days, surely Jesus can work a bit faster.

Jesus is the great healer, but He’s not content with healing your body. He knows your body will be healed in the resurrection, so a much greater concern is healing your soul, replacing your heart, renewing your mind.

And so it is with this woman. She can’t imagine a greater good than being healed. Twelve years an outcast, and we too would have limited our hopes and dreams; we too would see nothing past the end of our suffering. But Jesus knows there’s an infinity beyond her imagination, and He stops everything to show it to her.

Nothing shall be hidden that will not be made manifest.

No word, by the way, on what Jairus is doing through all of this commotion with the woman. If he’s like any parent anyone has ever met, he’s gone from panicked to terrified to something incomprehensible, and he’s on his last bit hope here with this Jesus guy, and this great healer is on the way to help, the cavalry at last, and He stops in the middle of the street to deal with an outcast, a leper, a nobody, while his daughter is DYING.

He’s probably not happy.

It’s about to get worse, though, as a servant comes up and tells him his daughter’s dead. End of story. Jesus the great healer was too slow. Too busy with this leper, this woman, this… he’s probably not even angry at this point. Anger takes too much energy for a man in his position.

Readers, you know the rest of the story. Jesus is unperturbed by death; He is life itself, and if something as inconsequential as the death of the body could stop Him, He would not be Jesus, and He would not be worthy of our worship. He calms Jairus with a word: “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well” (Luke 8:50). Jesus doesn’t make idle promises; if He tells you your daughter will be well, you can believe it.

So Jesus gets to Jairus’s house, kicks out all the mourners, invites Peter and James and John and Jairus and his wife, and simply asks the dead girl to get up, as if He were waking her for school.

And she does.

See? They laughed, but He told them she was only sleeping (Luke 8:52–53). Because to Jesus, the death of the body (type 3 in the Pauline types of death) is no more consequential than a good night’s sleep is to us. We have every expectation, when we lay down to sleep, that we will awake in the morning. Jesus has every expectation, when we lay down in death, that we will awake in eternity. We should share His expectation!

But this is not about Jairus’s daughter. This is about that woman, the one who thought she could sneak through the crowd undetected, grab a piece of Jesus’s power, and sneak back off. Not to be devious; she’s scared. What if people had seen her and recognized her? They’d have kicked her out! They’d have run screaming. She’d have been humiliated even more than usual. And she’d never get another chance to be so close to the Master, to the Healer. (There’s another person, much later, in a similar situation: the blind beggar at Jericho from Luke 18:35–43, to whom Jesus also says, “your faith has made you well.”)

So she tries it, and we learn three glorious truths.

First, we learn, again, that nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest.

Jesus told us this, remember, back in Luke 8:17, before the trip to Gadara and the storm and the pigs and the demons. This woman received the truth! Sort of! This man she’d heard of, this Jesus, could in fact heal what no man could heal. And not even Him, but just the merest touch of His clothes. Yet she tried to slink off, tried to hide that light under a basket, tried to keep it for herself. Again, not because she was devious; she was worried. She knew that she had just infected Him and everybody around Him with uncleanness. Even after she was healed, they were all still unclean, and she just couldn’t face that. Not after what she’d been through.

But here is a weird fact about Jesus. About holiness. About the entire New Testament. The Jews had spent more than a thousand years believing—because the law of Moses told them so—that uncleanness was contagious. You touch an unclean thing, you become unclean. You touch something else, it becomes unclean. Someone touches that thing, they get it. And on and on until the cycle is broken by washing with water and a sacrifice of blood.

With Jesus, on the other hand, holiness is contagious. This most-unclean of women touched Him, and far from Him becoming impure, she became clean. Healed. Saved, even. Jesus has turned the whole world on its head! And it keeps going. This woman’s healing by faith, called out in the middle of the crowd by Jesus, surely called others forward in faith. Surely turned their hearts toward Jesus. Her faith made her well, yes, but, astonishingly, it made others well, too.

(She’s even part of it. Luke says she “declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.” Her witness begins immediately. You can’t hide the work of Jesus.)

The Holy Spirit works this way in your life. When you live in Christ, when you serve the poor, when you feed the hungry, when you share the gospel, when you put the lamp on a lampstand instead of under a basket, He shines through you and infects those around you with heaven.

Be contagious.

Second, we learn that Jesus is not a magician but God Himself.

Jesus could have let the woman walk away without calling her out. Certainly, she would have preferred that. Her timidity in touching Him suggests that she really, really did not want to stand up in front of all those people and tell her story. She wasn’t used to being around people, much less in front of them, and probably these folks recognized her as “that unclean woman.” So she kind of wished He had let her go.

But what did she believe? Did she believe Jesus was a magician who had a magic robe? Later, there’s a magician who believes he can purchase the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18–20), so this idea was not unheard of.

If Jesus had let her go, she—but more importantly, we—might have gotten the wrong idea about Jesus’s purpose. So He stops her, clarifies the mechanism of the healing (“your faith has made you well”), and asks her to give witness to the power she had just experienced, the life-changing nature of the encounter. Afterward, nobody could misunderstand what had happened. Touching Jesus did not make her well. Touching Jesus was merely evidence of her faith, and her faith made her well.

Finally, we learn, again, that Jesus came for all.

He came for the centurion who built the synagogue, and for the ruler of the synagogue, and for the woman unclean for twelve years, and for the blind beggar. He came for the Pharisee and the prostitute. He doesn’t leave you behind because you’re impure, and He doesn’t pass you by just because everyone else does. Even when He’s busy, literally on His way to an emergency, He has time for you, to call you out from the crowd, to focus His attention solely on you among a pressing throng, to reward your faith and announce it to the world.

She was not hidden, and neither are you.

  1. Maybe that’s why He took His disciples across the sea: He knew these massive Jewish crowds wouldn’t dare follow them into a country full of herds of pigs. Especially demon-possessed pigs. 

  2. Technically, she needed to wait seven days to see if the bleeding returned, then take two turtledoves to a priest and have him sacrifice them for her. But I suspect she wasn’t concerned with technicalities of the law at this point. And fortunately for her, neither was Jesus.